When I first stepped on the scene of being a professional crochet artist /dollmaker, she was one of the very first black dollmakers I found. I was drawn to her fantastic work, advice, big smile, and inspirational nature. With a massive following of almost 50,000 people, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't know who she is, especially amongst fiber artists of color.
Her journey in the crochet world has been a long one that started when she was a child.
"I first learned how to crochet from my Great Aunt when I was seven years old. I stopped crocheting for quite a while but picked it back up in 2011 and have been crocheting ever since." Her talent and experience show through the quality of her work are on display in her business, My Pretty Brown Doll, which has been in existence since 2015. "I originally had a crochet business under "Don't Get it Twisted Crochet," where I mainly made hats and scarves! But, as more and more people started requesting dolls, I had to decide where I wanted to focus my attention. I decided on My Pretty Brown Doll because I wanted to emphasize that black girls are pretty!"
In addition to her thriving crochet doll business that has even serviced A-List celebrities like Gabrielle Union, Yolonda started My Crochet Life, a lifestyle blog that highlights the inner workings, ups and downs of running a craft business. "Initially, I created My Crochet Life as a space for me to share what it was like running a crochet business full time. It was meant more as an outlet for me, but the more I shared, the more people would reach out to "pick my brain" or ask for advice on a particular topic. At first, I would just answer as time permitted, but as time went on, it only made sense for me to charge a nominal fee because I value not only my time but theirs as well!"
With two thriving businesses, Yolonda has become the organizational Obi-Wan for other
crafty business owners (myself included). She sets very high standards for those who come to her for help and advice, but it is all worth it! To add to her long list, she became a new mom last year! "In this new season, I have had to let some things go, and I say no, (a lot, probably more than I should), but it is the only way to make this work. This is my full-time income, so I do my best to focus on those activities that give me the biggest return. As far as organization, my calendar is my best friend and my "get to-do list." I start my day by writing down what I must do for the day. Of course, some days are better than others, but if I start without the list, the day will be a struggle."
To add to all her remarkable success, she has also added author to her list of titles. "The book was not on my goals list ever. It didn't even cross my mind that a book may be in my future, at least not a crochet book. I still don't know how my editor found me! I think it may have been through Instagram, but I can't confirm. She reached out to me via email, and I did have to submit an official proposal to the publishing company. After a few edits, they did accept my proposal and the rest, as they say, is history." Saying history is right on the money because her book is the FIRST crochet book ever to be entirely devoted to black and brown dolls. "We need more Black authors in this space, and for those of us who have gone through the process, I think it is important to be transparent on what the process looks like. I'm not saying you have to tell all your business, but it shouldn't be so hard to find basic information on the process or what to expect. I don't have exact plans to do another one, but I have an idea of what I would like to do next."
Support and camaraderie are significant in the black dollmaker community. Recently Yolonda has started a few collaborations; the "It Aint Me But It Is Me" podcast with fellow Black Dollmakers, Aniqua Wilkerson of "My Kinda Thing," and La-Shonda Rice of "The Christian Crochet Addict." "The podcast is something we had talked about doing years ago, and we just never made the time to do it. We already talk on a pretty regular basis, and we were like, 'hey, these conversations should be shared! I think we were overthinking what it needed to be and were just like, let's pick a time and just show up and see what happens. I can't speak for them, but for me, the goal is to counter the stereotype that Black women can't get along and that we can't work together. I have too much evidence of the opposite, and this is just even more evidence for me."
Additionally, she is collaborating with Aniqua and her new yarn company, "My Kinda String" on the book's launch and offered a package that included a signed copy of the book and yarn to complete a doll (which sold out in minutes). "The yarn collab with Aniqua was actually her idea, and I was like yes, yes, and yes!"
Yolonda is in no way finished on her journey. "I'm hoping to bring back some version of Motivational Monday; although I love the live aspect, it may have to be a quick recorded video, but I do hope to bring but some version of it soon. As far as other things to expect, there will be more digital content from me; look for more patterns and tutorials and more merchandise that continues to celebrate the pretty in every shade of brown!"
You can find out more about Yolonda or any of her services at her websites, "MyPrettyBrownDoll.com" or "MyCrochetLife.com." You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram under My Pretty Brown Doll. Her book releases on May 24, 2022, in retailers, Target and Amazon.